Saturday, February 2, 2008

Opening Atlantis

I just finished reading Opening Atlantis, the first book in Harry Turtledove's latest alternate history series. In this alternate time-line, a portion of the North American continent split off and drifted into the Atlantic Ocean, 85 millions years in the past. The small continent was never populated by humans, and much like Australia, the flora and fauna took a decidedly different evolutionary path. This book presents three episodes in the colonization of the small continent: the first settlement by Englishmen in 1462, a conflict with pirates in the 1600s, and the English-French war of the mid 1700s.

As with any sort of fantastic literature, there is little point in arguing the plausibility of the scenario... for instance, with this new continent so much closer to Europe, it is hard to imagine that it would have taken until the 15th century to discover it. Surely the Phoenicians, Romans or Vikings would have found it before then... So, the best thing is to accept the premise and enjoy the ride.

According to Uchronia: The Alternate History List, Turtledove has also written two additional novellas that take place in this universe. One of the stories takes place in the 1840s, when naturalist John Jay Aubudon travels to Atlantis for one last view of bird species nearing extinction. It is likely that these two novellas will serve as the basis for the projected second book in the series, The United States of Atlantis.

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